Responding to Critics

Responding to Critics

Life Decisions International (LDI) has faced harsh criticism from a few people who are known as pro-life and/or Christian activists. After a person or persons not associated with LDI asked that they sever their business relationships with a boycott target. In response, each publicly accused LDI of knowingly putting corporations on The Boycott List that do not fund Planned Parenthood. They claimed to have requested documentation that led to the corporation becoming a boycott target, but LDI flatly refused to provide it. All such statements/accusations are — completely and without qualification — false. There is not even a hint of truth in them.

Deception in Triplicate

Persons knowingly engaging in deception are Steve Ertelt of LifeNews, Simon Rafe of RealCatholicTV and Dave Schmidt of Live Action. They have made specific accusations and, thus far, have refused to do the right thing despite being confronted. At best, the trio are motivated by an unwillingness to face the truth and take the simple steps to change to an alternative company. (LDI had already done the research on alternatives.) At worst they are motivated by money and/or a strong but inexplicable hatred for LDI and/or our work.

We are not talking about people speaking out of ignorance. We are talking about people who are calculatingly making statements they know to be false. LDI lacks the resources needed to file a lawsuit against such groups and individuals — and they know it. But we are not going to let false statements be made without confronting the accusers, especially since they hinder our work, which only aids the Culture of Death. (All of the groups with which these three individuals are associated use PayPal. Ertelt has even gone so far as to remove references to PayPal from LDI press releases before posting them on his website.)

In an attempt to validgang-of-3 (2)ate their claims, some accusers use random standards. For example, “The Company told me they do not currently fund Planned Parenthood and have no plans to do so in the future.” The problem is that “currently” is broadly — and conveniently — defined and “no plans” is being interpreted as definitive, but it is not. You may be assured that all corporations on The Boycott List belong there based on our long employed, clearly explained and uniformly applied standards.

Imagine the legal nightmare that would ensue if — even once — LDI put a corporation on The Boycott List that did not deserve to be there. The obvious response would be a law filed against LDI by the maligned corporation(s). While many corporations have try threatened to sue us, none has done so. Why? We tell the truth, which is the greatest defense of all.

Imagine the ensuing moral and ethical nightmare. Our reputation would be destroyed. A reputation for the highest level of integrity in our work is essential. LDI is known for accuracy; for printing and speaking the verified and verified again truth. This includes in our dealings with everyone (pro-life activists, the media, pro-abortion activists, lawmakers and corporate officials). Most important of all, by far, is our unabashed commitment to the Creator of all Life and His teachings through Holy Scripture.

We find it difficult to come up with even one reason why someone who claims to be pro-life would not choose to participate in such an easy and highly effective project. Nevertheless, anyone choosing to ignore the boycott is free to do so as this is a matter between each individual and God. (Pro-life/pro-family organizations have far less legitimate justification for refusing to participate than do individuals.) But please let no one resort to bearing false witness by making phony or misleading allegations that, fundamentally, are outright lies. We welcome legitimate criticism, but the flagrant display of such sin hurts every pro-life person and every true follower of Christ.

The company with which the accusers were associated was PayPal, a division of boycott target eBay. An internet search for “PayPal alternatives” will show many companies offering the same services, often under better terms. However, it is impossible for LDI to know for sure which as alternatives are “clean” when it comes to funding Planned Parenthood and/or other groups that oppose our moral view. The one alternative we can unequivocally recommend is Cornerstone Payment Systems (cornerstonepaymentsystems.com). We can guarantee Cornerstone supports neither Planned Parenthood nor any other anti-Christian entity. (Note: LDI does not benefit, financially or otherwise, from this endorsement of Cornerstone Payment Services. We believe remuneration of any kind would negatively impact our reputation as a neutral, honest and independent organization.)

Update: In 2014, PayPal’s parent corporation, eBay, announced plans to spin-off PayPal into a completely separate company. Consequently, PayPal is no longer a boycott target. Planned Parenthood-funding eBay remains on The Boycott List because it has not agreed to cease support of the abortion-committing behemoth. It is unfortunate some individuals and groups, all claiming to be steadfastly pro-life, were unhelpful in making PayPal a true victory by convincing eBay to stop funding Planned Parenthood. In fact, one might say LDI’s accusers provide cover for the offending corporation. (It should also be pointed out that PayPal has, on its own, engaged in anti-Christian activities. For details, do an internet search for “PayPal anti-Christian”.)

Personhood USA

Another group to attack LDI is Personhood USA (PUSA). We are rather certain of the reasons for PUSA’s attitude.

LDI has editorialized against petitions that are nothing more than fundraising ploys. PUSA urges people to sign petitions at virtually every pro-life event nationwide, but it is really only done to obtain contact information for fundraising. And the gimmick has proven very lucrative. (Several others have also used the petition ruse, including Steve Ertelt. His LifeNews company seems to have a petition for a somewhat different “cause” every week.)

LDI has said that any group seeking signatures on a petition should be upfront regarding how the gathered information will be use as well as to whom and by what date the petition will be delivered. If the petition will be used for fundraising, prominent notice should be provided. The truth is despite the implication that a signer will be making his/her “voice heard,” virtually none of the petitions are ever sent to a person in a position of power. Signers are actually “petitioning” no one. In those rare instances when petitions are delivered to policymakers/lawmakers one can expect to find them in the trash can within 24 hours. Why? The petition is recognized as the least effective way to impact public policy. In fact, if effectiveness were to be put on a scale of one to ten, the petition would get a one — at the most. PUSA has not been happy with LDI because the practice of petition signature gathering seems to be its primary source of income. Despite our urgings, PUSA continues to utilize the misleading but highly profitable scheme.

Another PUSA practice LDI has editorialized against is the ballot initiative. The universal failure of ballot initiatives — even in the most conservative states — do nothing but tie the hands of state legislators. LDI has said the ballot initiative strategy may be exciting but is a consistently losing effort. With the possible exception of some residual educational benefit, money spent on such efforts is wasted. It would be better spent on a general pro-life education campaign. PUSA’s mission is to push for the use of the initiative process to bypass state legislatures, despite the indisputable fact that the best hope for preborn children is through elected officials. This is one more reason PUSA is not exactly a fan of LDI. (We have as received several reports that PUSA representatives have criticized LDI’s Corporate Funding Project when they participate in various pro-life events. One report came from a member of LDI’s board of directors. The PUSA employee, Jennifer Mason, was clearly unaware of the connection.)

It should be noted that every statement made by LDI regarding petitions and ballot initiatives has been professional and void of personal attack. In fact, no organization has been criticized by name.

It is certainly the right of every individual to express an opinion, even if it is negative toward LDI and/or our work. But using LDI’s work — the same work they criticize — is a bit much. In December 2012, PUSA sent a fundraising appeal to its huge email list that was headed, “This Christmas, Boycott Planned Parenthood!” (Actually, PUSA means boycott Planned Parenthood’s corporate supporters. We would like to think that calling for a boycott of Planned Parenthood by pro-life Americans is unnecessary.)

PUSA“Each year corporations give millions upon millions to Planned Parenthood through corporate donations and grants,” the fundraising appeal continued. “Now, one pro-life organization has compiled a list of all the companies that send money to the biggest abortion provider in the nation.” (Wrong. It is not an exhaustive list by any means.) “This Christmas we urge you to fight for life with your wallet and refuse to buy any product made by one of these abortion enablers. Here is a list of some of Planned Parenthood’s biggest corporate allies.” (Implication — a different group did the research, but it is PUSA that decided to call for a boycott. PUSA had no contact with corporate officials. PUSA did no original research.)

The fundraising message provided a list of offending corporations taken directly from LDI’s Boycott List. The appeal violated our copyright policy and PUSA used LDI’s labor was used to raise money. (Had LDI been contacted ahead of time, we surely would have consented and laid out a few important guidelines.) The fundraiser was signed by PUSA’s legal counsel, Gualberto Garcia Jones.

Rude, to say the least, but PUSA’s next steps demonstrated great disrespect for LDI and our work. An LDI supporter, Tiffany M., had received PUSA’s fundraising appeal. (Tiffany had signed a PUSA petition several years ago and has been getting pleas for money on a regular basis.) Tiffany contacted PUSA via Facebook’s messenger. She sent to us a transcript of the exchange:

You are using the work of others to raise money for your group without even the basic decency of naming the organization responsible for publishing the list of boycotted companies. In your fundraising email you should have urged people to get the entire Boycott List. Writing “Now [and for the past 20 years], one pro-life organization has compiled a list of all the companies…” is both insufficient and morally wrong! You also violate the organization’s copyright and rules regarding use of the material. Did you get special permission to do it as you have?

PUSA’s Jennifer Mason, who had publicly criticized LDI in the past, responded to Tiffany’s message:

I think that the message your are [sic] referring to is one that we gave others permission to send out. I’m very sorry if bad information was sent out, or if the right credit wasn’t attributed. How can I fix it? Please let me know what to include and I will try to do something about it as soon as possible. Thanks.

Suspecting the reply was nonsense, Tiffany sent a follow-up in which she mentioned the PUSA fundraising appeal:

The letter was signed as follows:

For Life,

Gualberto Garcia Jones

Legal Counsel

Personhood USA.

The letter was clearly from a top leader of Personhood USA and I don’t see how it could have been written without intentionally/knowingly being deceptive. I don’t know how you can fix it but I’d begin by contacting Life Decisions International, apologizing, and asking them what you can do to fix it. LDI has been sent an exact replica of the letter…LDI does a lot of work for very little. They do not need to be taken advantage of. Thank you.

After weeks had passed with no response from PUSA Tiffany sent “reminder” of sorts:

No response. Do you have any intention to do the right thing or should I just urge LDI to deal with you?

Days later PUSA sent a reply, but this time it was not “signed”:

In fact, the companies mentioned in our email were companies that LDI has made public to everyone without purchasing their list. Because so many people responded to the email with more questions about the boycott, many of them questioning the research, we sent another email to everyone on our list telling them to go to LDI as they were the source of the info. This information is public and I am not sure why you are so upset by making it public. Being pro-life is not a business, you know, and I would think that telling others about these companies would be exactly what LDI would want anyways [sic].

In other words, PUSA used LDI’s project — a project they abhor — to raise money. In so doing they referred people to LDI, requiring us to stop what was being done and look up donor information to answer questions. Needless-to-say, LDI was not alerted beforehand (or ever) to be prepared for the onslaught. LDI’s workload greatly increased, as did PUSA’s budget.

LDI leaders know many people on PUSA’s mailing list and not one received the email described above. Tiffany became rather steamed:

Your response is stunning. This is not about purchasing the list. It is about who did the work. You admit you got the information from LDI and now that you raised money on LDI’s labor you are making LDI staff work even harder responding to inquiries from those who received your email. In other words, you get the money to run your group but the organization that is scraping by and did the great work gets nothing to run their organization. Who made public the list of companies you sent out by email? Where did you get the list? What is the direct source of the list? They are the people who should be responding to the questions of people you emailed.<

“Being pro-life is not a business, you know, and I would think that telling others about these companies would be exactly what LDI would want anyways [sic].” Your implication that LDI is only trying to make a buck is both insulting and utterly ridiculous. (This coming from a group with a budget in the millions compared to LDI with an annual budget of less than $100,000.) If they are just trying to make a buck, they are pretty bad at it. And people like you steal LDI’s work without even giving the group credit. LDI does want the word to go out, but did not do the work for you to send out fundraising emails. Being pro-life is not a business, you know!

As I told you before, “I’d begin by contacting Life Decisions International, apologizing, and asking them what you can do to fix it.” But instead of doing what you can to “fix” the problem you compound it. Trust me, your leap from claiming ignorance (“one that we gave others permission to send out”) to an attempt to justify wrongdoing (“this information is public”) and making wild insinuations (“being pro-life is not a business”) will not fly — with anyone.

I think LDI should take care of this problem with a letter from a lawyer for your theft and intentional deception. I also will urge them to do a press release letting people know what you have done. You go from claiming the email “is one that we gave others permission to send out” to a lousy justification for wrongdoing. You need to do the right thing — the Christian thing — and you need to do it quickly. Doing so will help put this matter to rest before it gets out of hand.

Jennifer Mason responded:

I just got your message on the Personhood USA Facebook wall, and I’m totally shocked. You started with “Your response is stunning” but I have no idea what response you are referring to. Did you talk to someone at our office? As soon as I got your last message we sent out another email correction, and spoke to the vendor that sent out the email on our behalf. Then my husband (Keith Mason) tried to contact someone there (I’m not sure who it was). We didn’t get a response until we got an email message from someone there that said they would be sending us a letter. My husband responded that that was fine, but included his phone number and said that he would personally like to talk to someone at LDI. We never send out Boycott Lists, or promote them, but because we are overwhelmingly busy had outsourced some of our email contacts to another company to send emails out for us. They were supposed to send them to Keith for approval first, but failed to do so with this one email. We have been trying to remedy the situation, although we did not raise money off of this email. We have tried to send people in your direction to hopefully get more support for you. If someone has been in contact with you besides me, please send it to me asap (sic). I’d like to see this “stunning” response so I can deal with it appropriately.

Mason claimed to have no idea to what email Tiffany was referring, pleading ignorance about its content. This is odd since all Mason needed to do was look up to the previous message sent by PUSA on Facebook. The entire text of the “mystery” is there and Mason surely knows it.

Mason claimed she was ignorant as to who within her group has access to its password protected Facebook page and claimed to have “sent out another email correction.” (Once again, our contacts on the PUSA email list received nothing. Absolutely nothing.) Furthermore, the statements regarding efforts to contact LDI are just plain lies.

LDI asked PUSA for contact information for its board of directors. The request was ignored. LDI has received no communication from PUSA whatsoever. (No voicemail messages. No emails. No letters. Nothing. LDI is open to viewing evidence to be contrary.)

Tiffany responded to Mason’s message:

You don’t send out Boycott Lists or promote them, but you do try to raise money on The Boycott List published by others. How can you say you didn’t raise “any” money off that fundraising email? You made plenty of money. And why in the world would you not endorse the boycott? It’s been amazingly successful.

What is the name of the company you outsource the job to? Are you trying to tell me your general counsel did not see the email that went out over his name? How and when did your husband “try” to contact someone at LDI? I spoke with them yesterday and was told no one from your group has tried to contact them. (I support and occasionally volunteer for LDI, but I am not part of its staff or board.)

The next message from PUSA was unsigned, but clearly came from Mason:

I already explained that a vendor wrote an email and sent it out instead of sending it to us to proof read. So we do not “try to raise money on Boycott Lists of others”; as I explained we have never done this before. It was an aberration that was immediately corrected with a follow up email that gave all of the credit to LDI. I appreciate your concern over this matter, and I will continue to investigate which of the FB [Facebook] admins [administrators\ sent that response to you. I am sorry that it was so abrupt. We will continue to try to reach out to the LDI staff from now on. I’m sorry to have kept bothering you over this.

Tiffany was not the least bit satisfied with the responses PUSA had sent so far:

It is not your messages to me that is bothersome. What is the name of the company you outsourced to? Did your general counsel not see the email before it went out over his name? How and when did your husband try to contact LDI?

I checked with other people who received your initial fundraising email and contacted LDI with my concerns. Not even one of them received a follow-up email from Personhood USA regarding LDI. Any idea why this would be the case?

Mason:

We sent multiple emails to clear it up. There was an initial email, then it was the p.s. on two more after that. But as I said, I will be continuing this conversation with the leadership at LDI. Thanks!

The issue was addressed in the postscript of at least two emails? This is a far cry from the impression previously given. (It is unfortunate no one seems to have received those emails.)

Once again, Tiffany repeated her direct questions:

What is the name of the company you outsourced to? Did your general counsel not see the email before it went out over his name? How and when did you husband try to contact LDI? How much money did the fundraising email bring in?

Suddenly, Mason believes it is somehow wrong for her to discuss this matter because Tiffany was not acting on behalf of LDI:

I’m really sorry, but now that I know you are not acting on behalf of LDI I don’t really feel comfortable discussing this with you any longer.

What? It is not as though the matter was a secret. It was not as though an untold number of people had received PUSA’s fundraising message. It was not as though one had to be part of LDI to be upset by what PUSA had done. Tiffany was contacting the group as a person who received the fundraising email and not as a representative of LDI. She did not have to be a representative of LDI to have a direct interest in the matter.

As for the questions that were repeatedly asked but ignored, Mason wrote:

Besides, I’m pretty sure I answered all of those questions in previous messages. Thanks for your concern, and we’ll continue attempting to contact the LDI Leadership.

Mason must be kidding. She knows the questions were ignored every time they were asked. And rather than just provide the answers “again,” Mason claimed to have provided the information in an earlier message. Does Mason think Tiffany could be easily misdirected and was a gullible fool? Due to PUCA’s most recent ruse, Tiffany could not verify Mason’s claims of innocence and unintended error.

Tiffany sent one final — strongly worded — message:

You answered none of the questions and you don’t want to discuss this because I am asking too many questions — the kinds of questions that can determine whether or not you are being truthful. It is clear you are not being truthful. You have not tried to contact LDI. You did not outsource the emails. You did not send any follow-up emails to your list. You did raise plenty of money on the misleading email. Your general counsel did approve of the fundraising email. I, too, am finished with this discussion.

Obvious lying in an effort to cover up your sin will only make it worse. Sin on top of sin always does. You should have just told the truth, asked for forgiveness, and put this matter to rest. But you chose to dig the hole deeper and deeper because you do not regret what you did in the least, even though you know it is horribly sinful. And you call yourselves “Christian”? Shame! I will pray for you.

gang-of-1In an email to LDI, Tiffany M. said that, other than the flagrant lying, the most disturbing part of the exchange was Mason’s statement that PUSA would never endorse LDI’s boycott, but are willing to call for a boycott when doing so includes an implication it was their idea and their project. Tiffany said she was also bothered by the feeling that Mason was just toying with her. “I could imagine them laughing and mocking,” Tiffany wrote. “They obviously didn’t care. And their story kept evolving. I’ll bet they didn’t even try to justify their ungodly actions to themselves. They have no moral conscience. It is as though the sinful behavior meant nothing. It is grossly shameful.”

Tiffany closed her last message to Mason with several Scriptures about lying and deception but, so far, they have not motivated the people at PUSA to do the right thing; tell the truth, repent, and seek forgiveness, which, if sincere, would readily be given. As Tiffany put it, “Shameful. It is shameful on many different levels.” The Scriptures sent to Mason follow (emphasis is Tiffany’s, not ours):

Proverbs 6:16-19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers

Proverbs 12:22

Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord…

Psalm 101:7

No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.

Ephesians 4:25

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.

Revelation 21:8

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.

Psalm 58:3

The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies.

James 3:14

But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.

Proverbs 21:6

The getting of treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death.

Leviticus 19:11

“You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.”

James 1:26

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.

Proverbs 13:5

The righteous hates falsehood, but the wicked brings shame and disgrace.

Psalm 34:13

Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit.